A large gathering of important people, big thinkers and celebrities begins today in Charleston, featuring hundreds of interesting discussions, seminars and performances — all of which you're not invited to attend.

Not invited, unless you're among the 1,200 people on the Renaissance Weekend guest list, which is undisclosed but known to include former presidents such as Bill Clinton and Gerald Ford and a diverse group of people ranging from scientists to celebrities, such as octogenarian sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer.

It could prove to be a good several days for people-watching downtown.

Renaissance Weekend attendees, in the words of the organizers, include “scores of Cabinet members, governors and U.S. senators, Nobel laureates and MacArthur 'genius' Award-, Pulitzer Prize-, Oscar- and Emmy-winners, Olympic champions and astronauts, best-selling authors, celebrated CEOs, Internet pioneers and entrepreneurs, and leaders in education, non-profits, social services, law and medicine.”

The five-day off-the-record gathering is the largest of five Renaissance Weekend events held yearly since 1981. The New Year's event has been held in Charleston since 2001.

Some participants and likely participants were announcing their arrival in town Thursday on social media.

“Back from Crystal Cruise now in Charleston for Renaissance Weekend,” Westheimer posted on Twitter. “Had great time on ship.”

Dana Perino, former press secretary for President George W. Bush, was also on Twitter, posting a photo of her dog, Jasper, in Marion Square.

The non-partisan event was founded and is hosted by Charleston residents Philip and Linda Lader.

Philip Lader is the former U.S. Ambassador to the Court of St. James and chairman of WPP plc, the world's largest advertising and media services company.

“This is to have an open exchange of views on public and private issues between innovative leaders,” Lader said.

Typically, a handful of attendees are made available for interviews during the course of the event — former CIA agent Valerie Plame and American Conservative Union Chairman David Keene were among those last year — but the content of the discussions held during the event is not shared with the public.

There will be 500 lectures, seminars, discussions and performances planned, according to the organizers.

Topics run a wide gamut, from “Astronauts' & Astrophysicists' Insights from Outer Space” to “What Does 'Gangnam Style' Tell Us about Pop Culture?”

Reach David Slade at 937-5552 or Twitter @DSladeNews.